Government to charge $24k for access to NBN documents

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Government to charge $24k for access to NBN documents

Opposition stumped at price of paper.

Shadow communications minister Nick Minchin has been quoted $24,000 to access NBN-related documents as part of a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

The opposition made the FOI request to the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) in May 2009 in an attempt to access an ACCC report, a second secretive letter of recommendation and an expert panels' report into the National Broadband Network.

"Senator Minchin's request extended to all relevant documents relating to the failed NBN process and also the development of the Mark II policy," a spokesperson from Minchin's office said in an email to iTnews this morning.

"This included the expert panel's report, ACCC report, (and the) secret letter from panel to Conroy which outlined a way forward and interdepartmental advice".

The spokesperson said that the Opposition was not in a position to pay $24,000 "for a process that provides no guarantees that anything will be released".

The department, meanwhile, continues to argue that the expert panels' report and ACCC report contains information that is "commercial in confidence".

"The remainder of the expert panel's report contains confidential commercial information so will not be released," a spokesperson from the department has stated in past conversations with iTnews. "The ACCC report also contains confidential information".

The Opposition claims its efforts to see the report released are backed by the Senate.

"The Coalition maintains that in-line with the most recent Senate order, supported by the Greens, Senators Fielding and Xenophon, that debate on NBN related legislation should not proceed until these documents are tabled," Minchin's spokesperson said.

"If the Government does not comply it will have to attempt to have the order over-turned," the spokesperson said. "The available evidence suggests that the NBN Mark I tender process was fatally flawed and that the $43 billion announcement was hastily cobbled together as a smokescreen to mask the Government's failure to deliver on its key election promise.

"This Government promised a 'new age of transparency'. This request...demonstrates this is nothing more than hollow rhetoric." 

What do you think? Is $24k an unreasonable amount of money to ask for a document search? Was the Liberal Party's record on FOI any better? Have your say in the comments form below.

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